This Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte aka Black Forest Cherry cake is one of the most classic cakes in Germany. Three layers of dark chocolate cake, filled with whipped cream and cherries, and topped with dark chocolate shavings, this cake is perfect for any celebration.
While there are many different versions of this cake, you will be hard pressed to find a German bakery without this classic cake. This version uses jarred sour cherries rather than fresh cherries and does not include alcohol – these are both personal preferences but I find they make the cake easier as well as available to everyone.
What is a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte?
The name of this cake translates directly to Black Forest Cherry Cake. Traditionally it is made with layers of rich chocolate cake, filled with whipped cream and cherries and brushed with kirsch liqueur. Usually this cake is fully coated with the whipped cream, I find that it can get a little sweet when there is that much cream on the cake, but this recipe does make enough whipped cream to fully ice it.
Dutch processed Cocoa vs. Natural Cocoa Powder?
The only chocolate that is found in this cake is from cocoa powder, this helps keep the cake more moist. Both dutch processed and natural cocoa powder will work here.
Can this cake be made in advance?
Yes, this cake is perfect because you can make the chocolate cake a few days in advance, wrap it up tightly, and place it in the fridge until you are ready to assemble. Once assembled, the cake can sit for 3-4 hours in the fridge before serving. If possible, I recommend covering the cake with a dome from a cake stand to prevent it from drying out in the fridge.
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Tips for making Black Forest Cherry Cake
- Don’t over bake the cake, even if the toothpick doesn’t come out perfectly clean, remove the cake after 45 minutes to prevent drying it out.
- Allow the cake to cool fully before trying to slice it. I like to wrap the cake up and place it in the fridge overnight – this will help the cake hold together rather than fall apart while slicing.
- When making the stabilized whipped cream, make sure the gelatin is still very runny and drizzle it into the slightly whipped heavy cream slowly while the mixer is running on low speed. This will help prevent any clumps from forming.
- If you choose to ice the outside of the cake, assemble the cake without the exterior whipped cream, and then refrigerate it for at least an hour before finishing to ice it.
- All Purpose Flour: Any all purpose flour should work for this Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte! I have not yet tried any other flours with this recipe.
- Corn Starch: Corn starch makes this cake lighter and more tender.
- Cocoa Powder: This recipe will work with either Dutch processed or natural cocoa powder.
- Sugar: There is granulated sugar in the dough as well as in the whipped cream.
- Salt: A tiny bit of salt balances out the sweetness of the batter.
- Baking Powder: Always make sure that your baking powder has not expired. It acts as one of the two main leavening agent for this recipe so it is important that it is working.
- Egg: 3 eggs are used in this cake recipe. I use standard large eggs from the grocery store.
- Oil: Any neutral oil will work in this cake. Oil is used rather than butter to help keep the cake moist and tender.
- Coffee: Coffee is optional in this recipe – it can be replaced with water; however, it brings out the chocolate flavor in the cake and you don’t actually taste the coffee.
- Milk: Use any milk you want in this cake, dairy or non-dairy, skim or whole milk, they will all work.
- Vanilla Extract: Vanilla enhances the chocolate flavor of the cake.
- Heavy Cream: Both heavy cream and heavy whipping cream work for the filling/icing of this cake.
- Gelatin: I know gelatin can seem scary to some people but is a very important addition to the whipped cream because it gives it strength – otherwise the whipped cream will all squish out when the cake is layered. This recipe uses powdered gelatin.
- Sour Cherries: Jarred sour cherries that are in a syrup are used for this cake. When draining the cherries, reserve the syrup because it will be used to brush the layers of chocolate cake with.
- Kirsch Liqueur or Vanilla extract: Use either of these to flavor the whipped cream filling.
- Dark Chocolate: This is optional, but to decorate the cake I like to shave a bar of dark chocolate with a vegetable peeler to create small shavings.
How to make Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
Make the Chocolate Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 F or 325 F if baking convection (convection is preferred with this recipe). Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and corn starch into a medium bowl.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Use the whisk attachment and whisk on high for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
- In a large measuring cup, stir together the oil, coffee and milk. Once the eggs are fully beaten, turn the mixer to medium low and slowly drizzle in the liquids.
- Stop the mixer and dump in the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer back on to medium low and whisk again until just combined.
- Liberally spray an a 9″ cake pan with baking spray (one that includes flour) and pour the batter in. Tap the cake pan on the counter 3 times and then place in the preheated oven for 45 min. If not baking on convection, rotate the cake after 30 minutes to ensure that it bakes evenly.
- After the time has passed, remove the cake from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the edges of the pan.
- Lay a piece of parchment paper over the cake, followed by a second cooling rack, and swiftly flip the cake over onto the parchment and cooling rack – it should fall out of the cake pan.
- Lift the cake pan off of the cake, then use the original cooling rack with a second piece of parchment paper, to flip the cake back over so that it is once again face up and leave it to cool fully before moving it.
- The parchment paper helps keep the cake from sinking into the holes of the cooling rack.
- Once cooled, wrap the cake with plastic or an airtight container and place it in the fridge.
Prepare the Sour Cherries
- Set a sieve over a bowl and pour the jar of sour cherries into the sieve to drain. Keep the syrup/juice that drains off for later.
Whipped Cream Filling
- In a small microwave safe bowl, combine the powdered gelatin and water and let it soften for 5 minutes. Then microwave the bloomed gelatin in 15 second increments for about 45 seconds total until it is thin and runny. Leave it to cool for no more than 7 minutes while you whip the cream.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the heavy cream and sugar, and whisk on high speed until streaks just begin to form.
- Turn the mixer to medium low speed and slowly drizzle in the gelatin. Continue mixing and add in the kirsch liqueur or vanilla extract and mix until stiff peaks form.
- Place the stabilized whipped cream in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the cake.
Assemble the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
- Use a long serrated knife to slice the cake into three equal layers. Place the bottom layer face up on a plate or cake stand. Use a brush to brush about 1/4-1/3 of a cup of the cherry syrup over the base of the cake. Then evenly place all the cherries except 8 on the bottom layer.
- Use a piping bag to pipe 1/4 of the whipped cream mixture over the cherries and then a rubber spatula or offset spatula to gently spread the whipped cream into an even layer.
- Stack the middle layer of cake on top of the whipped cream and press down gently to make sure it is level and stuck to the whipped cream. Repeat the step of brushing the cherry liquid over the cake and then use a piping bag and spatula to evenly distribute another quarter of the whipped cream mixture.
- Top off with the third layer of cake and scoop 1/2 of the remaining whipped cream mixture on top. Spread the whipped cream out into an even layer.
- ***At this point if you want to fully ice the cake, place the assembled cake into the fridge for an hour. Then use the remaining whipped cream to ice the sides of the cake.
- If not icing the sides of the cake, use the remaining whipped cream to pipe 8 evenly spaced rosettes around the outside edge of the cake. Place the 8 reserved cherries in between each of the rosettes.
- Optionally, use a vegetable peeler to peel shavings of chocolate from the side of a chocolate bar over the entire cake.
- Stand Mixer
Chocolate Cake Dry Ingredients
- 100 grams ap flour
- 50 grams corn starch
- 65 grams cocoa powder natural or dutch processed
- 1 tsp baking powder
Chocolate Cake Wet Ingredients
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 200 grams granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- 150 ml coffee room temperature
- 100 ml oil neutral
- 100 ml milk
- 1 jar sour cherries (24 oz jar)
- 1 l heavy cream
- 4 tsp powdered gelatin
- 60 grams sugar
- 3 tsp vanilla extract or kirsch liqueur
Make the Chocolate Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 F or 325 F if baking on convection.
- Sieve the dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, vanilla, sugar, and salt. Use the whisk attachment to whip on high speed for 3 minutes until light and frothy.
- In a 2 cup measuring cup, combine the milk, coffee, and oil.
- With the mixer running on medium low speed, slowly stream the liquids into the beaten eggs.
- Turn the mixer off and dump in the sifted dry ingredients. Mix again on medium low speed until just combined.
- Spray a 9" metal cake pan with a baking spray that includes flour. Pour the batter into the pan and tap 3 times on the counter to get rid of the major air bubbles.
- Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Rotate the cake after 30 minutes if not baking on convection to make sure it bakes evenly.
- After it is finished baking, remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
- After 10 minutes, run a knife along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the sides of the pan.
- Flip the cake out onto a parchment lined cooling rack and then flip the cake back, right side up onto another parchment lined cooling rack. Leave the cake to cool for at least 30 minutes before wrapping it up and putting it in the fridge to chill.
Prepare the Cherries
- Place a sieve over a medium bowl. Pour the jar of cherries over the sieve and leave to strain. Don't throw out the strained liquid.
Make the Whipped Cream
- In a small bowl, stir together the gelatin and water and let sit for 5 minutes. Then microwave the bowl on 15 second increments until it becomes a thin liquid.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment on medium high to whip the cream and sugar together until lines just begin to appear.
- Turn the mixer down to medium low speed and drizzle in the still liquid gelatin.
- Pour in the vanilla or kirsch and continue mixing until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble.
Assemble the Cake
- Slice the chilled chocolate cake into three even layers.
- Brush the bottom layer with 1/4 cup of the reserved cherry liquid and then layer with all except 8 of the drained cherries.
- Use a piping bag to add 1/4 of the whipped cream mixture on top of the cherries and gently spread it out until it is even.
- Stack the middle layer of cake on top of the whipped cream and brush again with 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid.
- Pipe on another 1/4 of the whipped cream mixture and spread it out so that it is even.
- Layer on the top portion of cake onto the whipped cream. Then add half of the remaining cream on to the top of the cake in an even layer.
- If you want to ice the sides of the cake, chill the cake at this stage for an hour and then frost the sides with the remaining whipped cream.
- If you want to leave it naked as is shown in the photos, use the remaining whipped cream to pipe 8 evenly spaced rosettes on top of the cake around the edge.
- Place the 8 remaining cherries in between the rosettes.
- To finish the cake, use a vegetable peeler to shave the side of a chocolate bar over the cake to create chocolate shavings.